Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TOP STORY > >Landfill promoted as wildlife habitat, source for energy

Leader senior staff writer

Proving that one man’s trash is another’s bird sanctuary, Waste Management Inc. and Audubon Arkansas announced Tuesday that they were undertaking a unique partnership to help cleanup the headwaters of the Bayou Meto watershed.

Waste Management’s Two Pine Landfill in Jacksonville began tapping the methane gas created in the landfill and burning it in giant generators to provide low-cost electricity to 4,500 North Little Rock homes.

The methane gas, which would otherwise escape into the atmosphere to create ozone, instead replaces tons of coal to generate that electricity.

On hand to celebrate the partnership and as well as the alternative energy produced at the landfill were Gov. Mike Beebe, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Cong. Vic Snyder, Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim and others.

“The whole country can take a lesson from this partnership,” said Beebe. “It’s a testimony to the people of Arkansas and can be a model to lead the nation.”

He said that some might expect a pit fight between Waste Management and Audubon, but that the cooperation was inspiring.

He said their bird and management program was a step in making the world safer and cleaner.

“Ken Smith has dedicated his life to making sure these things happen,” Lincoln said, referring the state director of Arkansas

“We celebrate this first-of-a-kind partnership,” she added.

The generators produce 5 megawatts of electricity to power some homes in North Little Rock.

Nationally, Waste Manage-ment produces enough electricity to power 400,000 homes and offset the burning of 200 million tons of coal, a company spokesman said.

The existing landfill is about at its capacity, and Waste Management is preparing about 150 acres across Hwy. 440 for future use, but all of it will eventually be incorporated into the bird and wildlife habitat, according to Smith.

He said the park and habitat will total about 500 acres and will include grasses that can be harvested and sold to make ethanol, marshes to help clean and filter storm-water runoff, trails, overlooks and eventually a nature center just yards from the generators turning methane into electricity.

“It’s all pretty neat stuff,” said Smith, but the real importance to Audubon is that Two Pine and Jacksonville are in the headwaters of Bayou Meto.

He said that other than cleaning up the dioxin spilled from the old Vertac chemical plant, little thought had been given to conservation of the watershed.

“Downstream is the largest public waterfowl shooting grounds in the United States, 20,000 acres in the Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area,” Smith said.